I’m reading Dave Eggers’ ‘The Every’, sequel to ‘The Circle’, so a mind-numbing fictional take on Big Tech’s big reach on our world.
Eggers writes well, of course, and basically knows how to translate the news of the day into a piece of fiction. I wonder what shelf-life his books will have. Will they endure, say like ‘The Warden’, Anthony Trollope’s 1855 novel about Septimus Harding, the meek warden of an almshouse in Barsetshire?
Will they, be like ‘Bleak House’ Dickens’ take on long-running legal cases, a perpetual reminder of the need to remake our current state of being? ‘Bleak House’ made the case for judicial reform. Will Mr Eggers’ work illustrate the perils of letting Big Tech get ever bigger?
Perhaps. He is certainly persuasive.
For those who don’t know, The Circle was about the eponymous giant company. A mash-up of Google and Facebook, the Circle had a campus that had E V E R Y T H I N G any employee could ever need and then some. Staff were encouraged to live every moment of their lives on campus (that’s the case with the HQs of many companies in Paolo Alto). Staff of the Circle were invited, nay urged, to use the multiple free and fantastic facilities, and somewhat tragically, to participate in an always-on experiment in radical openness.
‘The Every’ turns the tension up a notch. The novel is titled for the eponymous company formed from the Circle’s merger with “an ecommerce behemoth named after a South American jungle”. It has become even bigger than the Circle, taking over chunks of everything we regard as essential to our flawed, maddening, beautiful world. (For instance, letting your dog run free on the beach. It’s not allowed anymore to make everything safer for the dog and for everyone else.) There’s also the compulsion to be constantly emoting, constantly ticking some box somewhere to promote better interaction and empathy.
The Every has made the world flatter in every way, more faux empathetic, more exhausting. The Every is a quasi-sovereign entity, with power over all of us. It can make and it can break. It’s an awful (awfully prescient, but contemporaneous too) account of what can happen when Big Tech can get too big.
Tomorrow: The too meta world of the Metaverse